Note: for those who may have heard about it before the story
Nov 23, 7:11 PM EST
4 charged with capital murder in Houston shooting
By CHRISTOPHER SHERMAN
McALLEN, Texas (AP) -- Four men accused in a brazen daytime attack
that killed the driver of a semitrailer carrying drugs were ordered
jailed without bond Wednesday, and authorities were trying to
determine whether the suspects were linked to local gangs helping
Mexican drug traffickers.
Federal and local agents had been watching the truck as part of an
investigation into drug trafficking from the Rio Grande Valley.
Houston has long been known as a major distribution hub for drug
shipments from Mexico, and Mexican drug traffickers often employ U.S.-
based street and prison gangs to help.
Investigators haven't been able to confirm whether the suspects in
the shooting are connected to organized crime, though two are from
Nuevo Laredo, a border city controlled by the Zetas. The gang was
originally the Gulf cartel's enforcement arm, but established itself
as a violent group in its own right after a split last year.
"We know that there was a violent drug trafficking organization and
there are gangs here, and what we have gathered is that we don't know
the exact association with the gangs here," DEA spokeswoman Lisa Webb
Johnson said. She said the investigation had not confirmed or denied
a possible link to the Zetas yet
DEA and Harris County sheriff's officials are trying to piece
together Monday's incident, which killed the truck driver, a
suspected drug trafficker, and injured a sheriff's deputy who was
working undercover. The deputy was shot in the leg and is expected to
make a full recovery, authorities said. His name hasn't been released.
The four men arrested - Fernando Tavera, Eric De Luna, Ricardo
Ramirez and Rolando Resendiz - appeared in court in Houston on
Wednesday. They were scheduled to be formally charged with capital
murder next week.
Court records indicate that all but Tavera are Mexican citizens.
Their immigration status and whether any of the suspects had
attorneys weren't immediately clear. A call to the Mexican consulate
in Houston was not immediately returned. Court records show three of
the men requested their consulate be notified.
Court records identified the driver as Lawrence Chapa, whom the DEA
had labeled a suspected trafficker, Webb Johnson said. The agency
released no other details.
De Luna, 23, was born in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico. At the time of the
shooting, he was out of jail on $40,000 bond after being charged with
aggravated assault with a deadly weapon in October, according to
court records. De Luna had received deferred judgment on a 2005
aggravated assault with a deadly weapon charge, according to Harris
County court records. Calls to his bondsman and a phone number listed
as De Luna's on his bail bond were not immediately returned.
Tavera, 19, and Ramirez, 35, have prior misdemeanor marijuana
possession charges in Harris County. Ramirez was also born in Nuevo
Laredo and the 28-year-old Resendiz was born in Matamoros, Mexico.
The Obama Administration has allowed the Mexican Drug War to
penetrate deep into U.S. territory and another U.S. citizen has died
for our open borders. Deadly Mexican criminal cartels are now
operating freely in most large U.S. cities.
The mission was supposed to be a textbook "controlled delivery" — a
routine trap by law enforcement officers using a secret operative
posing as a truck driver to bust drug traffickers when their
narcotics are delivered to a rendezvous point.
Instead, things spun out of control. Shortly before the marijuana
delivery was to be made Monday, three sport-utility vehicles carrying
alleged Zetas cartel gunmen seemingly came out of nowhere and cut off
the tanker truck as it rumbled through northwest Harris County,
sources told the Houston Chronicle.
They sprayed the cab with bullets, killing the civilian driver, who
was secretly working with the government. An undercover sheriff's
deputy, who was driving nearby in another vehicle, was wounded,
possibly by friendly fire from officers arriving at the scene.
"We are not going to tolerate these types of thugs out there using
their weapons like the Wild, Wild West," said Javier Pena, the new
head of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration's Houston Division.
"We are going after them."
"Everybody is surprised at the brazenness," Pena continued as he
stressed a full court press by the DEA, the sheriff and police. "We
haven't seen this type of violence, which concerns us."
For some at the scene it seemed all too similar to what has been
playing out in Mexico, where drug cartels operate with near impunity
as they clash with each other and with the military and police.
Sources discussed aspects of the shoot-out on the condition they not
be identified publicly due to the sensitivity of the ongoing
A contingent of law-enforcement officers had been covertly shadowing
the truck as it eased its way through the Houston area to deliver a
load of marijuana fresh from the Rio Grande Valley.
As the gunmen attacked, officers quickly jumped into the fray and
also opened fire on the attackers. The truck kept rolling until it
careened off the roadway and came to a halt.
Dozens of law-enforcement officers descended on the scene as well and
fanned out in the surrounding neighborhoods.
Four suspects, all believed to be citizens of Mexico, were arrested
and charged Monday with capital murder in connection with the shooting.
They are Eric De Luna, 23; Fernando Tavera, 19; Ricardo Ramirez, 35
and Rolando Resendiz, 34.
The sheriff's deputy, who has not yet been identified publicly
because he was working undercover, was hit in the knee during the
melee that involved several cars and guns.
The eight-year veteran was expected to spend Thursday night in the
hospital, but make a full recovery.
Christina Garza, a spokeswoman for the Harris County Sheriff's
Office, said much of the incident remains under investigation,
including who shot the deputy and the driver.
"Until we get that forensic analysis back, we won't know for sure,"
she said. "There were several people firing weapons. As for who shot
who, that is still under investigation."
Authorities would not discuss how the deceased driver, who in
addition to being a confidential informant and holding a job as a
commercial truck driver, first made contact with the traffickers.
While some of the arrested attackers have allegedly admitted to an
affiliation with the Mexico-based Zetas, authorities said they are
trying to determine why such a bold and risky attack was launched
over just 300 pounds of marijuana.
Sources, who concede this case is especially puzzling, said that if
the Zetas had learned the truck driver was an informant and wanted
him dead, there are smarter ways to get him than risk an assault on a
truck watched so closely by law enforcement.
"If it was a straight assassination, there were points in this
controlled delivery where he would have just been a sitting duck,"
said a law-enforcement source speaking on the condition of anonymity.
A theory being closely looked at is that someone from the drug
underworld knew what the truck looked like and knew where it was
going, and decided to get a crew together to stage a rip off,
thinking much more marijuana was hidden in the truck.
"Pretty brazen to kill a man over 300 pounds of grass," the law-
enforcement source said.
Read more: http://www.mysanantonio.com/news/local_news/article/Zetas-
Driver killed in drug-related shootout identified
By DANE SCHILLER, HOUSTON CHRONICLE
Published 07:51 p.m., Wednesday, November 23, 2011
Houston and Texas
The man shot to death as he drove a tractor-trailer rig containing
marijuana through northwest Harris County and into what became a
shootout between police and gangsters is identified in court papers
made public Wednesday as Lawrence Chapa.
Four men are charged with capital murder in the death of Chapa, who
was killed Monday. Chapa's name and residence are not mentioned in
the court papers, which list the name of the defendants.
Law-enforcement authorities, speaking on the condition of anonymity,
said Chapa was working with counter-narcotics officers by driving the
truck, loaded with 300 pounds of marijuana, to a Houston-area
location where they could arrest criminals waiting for the delivery.
They have not said where Chapa, who held a job as a legitimate truck
driver, got the marijuana or how he made a connection with the
In addition to Chapa being shot to death, a Harris County sheriff's
deputy, wearing civilian clothes and escorting the truck driven by
Chapa, was shot in the knee and wounded, in apparent friendly fire by
other officers responding to the shootout.